Is Your Will Legally Valid?

No one likes to think about their death and it’s very easy to put off making preparations for what will happen after you die. But the reality is that having a legally valid Will is the best way to ensure that your wishes will be carried out correctly.

In the news recently, we’ve seen the complications that can arise when the validity of a will is questioned. Last month (January 2023), Priscilla Presley brought a legal challenge against terms set out in her late daughter’s Will.

Priscilla’s legal team argued that an amendment made to Lisa-Marie Presley’s Will in 2016 was not legally valid. They stated that the document had misspelled Priscilla’s name and that Lisa-Marie’s signature was “inconsistent with her usual and customary signature”.

It was also put forward that the amendment had not been witnessed or notarised, which means that the signature had not been verified.

And although the Presleys’ case is taking place in the US, there are similar rules in the UK that must be followed when making a Will in order for it to become legally binding.

Making sure your Will is valid

Even if you’ve already made your Will, it will only be considered legally binding if it meets these requirements:

  • It is in writing, signed and witnessed by two people (beneficiaries are not allowed to act as witnesses)
  • You were over 18 and had the mental capacity to understand the effect of your Will when it was made
  • Your Will was made voluntarily without pressure from anyone else

If you have a serious illness or condition such as dementia, you may still be able to make a Will if you have the mental capacity to do so. A solicitor can help you secure a medical practitioner’s statement that certifies your understanding of the Will and its contents.

Don’t forget to update your Will

Many of us fall into the trap of making a Will and never thinking about it again once it’s done. But as our lives change and develop, it’s important that we make sure our Will still reflects our wishes.

It’s recommended that you review your Will every five years, or after any major change in your circumstances.
Some examples of life events that should make you consider updating your Will include:

  • Divorcing or remarrying
  • Having a child or grandchild
  • Moving house
  • Someone named in your Will passing away

If you’re making a minor change to your Will, it is possible to make what’s known as a codicil. This will be attached to your original Will and must be signed and witnessed by two people for it to become valid.

But for major life changes, it is often better to make a new Will. This will reduce the chance of any confusion after your death, as the contents of your Will are all in one place. In your new Will, you should state that it cancels out any previous Wills or codicils made.

What will happen if my Will isn’t valid when I die?

If you die without a legally valid Will in place, it is known as dying intestate. This means that your estate will be shared out according to the rules of intestacy, not the wishes you set out in your Will.

The rules of intestacy can be restrictive and they don’t recognise all relationships. For example, if a person dies while living with a partner, that partner won’t be entitled to receive anything if they were not married or in a civil partnership.

This is why we would always encourage having a legally binding Will written up – for the peace of mind that your loved ones will be taken care of after you’re gone.

Making a Will or updating an existing Will doesn’t have to be complicated. We can put you in touch with expert Wills, estate and probate solicitors who will make sure your Will is legally solid. So there will be no risk of disputes further down the line.

To find out more, get in touch with us by phone or make an enquiry online.


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